WJC Aftermath: Evaluating the Goaltender(s), Plus a Look to 2012

Except for 9:33 in a game against Germany, Jack Campbell played the entire World Junior Championship. He won the tournament’s directorate award as the best goaltender and proceeded to dominate at the international level. Andy Iles only got to play a little under 10 minutes, but believe it or not, I still have an evaluation. So here we go:

Jack Campbell — 353:35 Min, 1.70 GAA, 159 SVS, .941 SV% — Hands down, the MVP of this U.S. team. No one could possibly argue with that. Even in the loss to Canada, Campbell was stellar, single-handedly keeping the U.S. in the game, score-wise. He was the top goaltender in the tournament, statistically, but also intangibly. The confidence his team had in him was obvious. It seemed he made almost all the saves he had to make and rarely got beat cleanly. There’s no doubt that this young man is the top goaltending prospect in all of hockey. The Dallas Stars won’t want to rush him, but I don’t know if I could fault them for giving this guy a spot on their team next year. Still, if Dallas wants to keep him in Windsor, Team USA is all the better for it next year. He’s the most decorated goaltender in the history of American hockey, with four medals (3 gold, 1 bronze from U18 and WJC), two directorate awards, two tournament all-star selections and the most ridiculous career numbers you’ll see. To have him on the bench for a third consecutive World Juniors would be a lot of fun to see. What’s there left to say? He’s a special player, with a bright future.

Andy Iles — 9:33 Min, 0.00 GA, 0 SVS, .000 SV% — Some might ask, why are you doing this? Partly it’s because I said I was going to do evaluations of ALL 22 players. But the main reason is I want to shed light on something important in the grand scheme of a team. When a goaltender is put in a back up role for a tournament of this kind, there aren’t many opportunities. Some players simply cannot handle that. They become a team cancer. The guy who always is complaining or the guy who’s not even trying in practice. That stuff can trickle down with ease. By all accounts, Andy Iles was the most gracious teammate you could ask for. Despite being a strong competitor and in his own right, a very good goaltender, he didn’t pout. He was a good teammate for the 21 other guys and particularly a good teammate to Campbell. Sometimes the most important performances come off the ice. His size may keep him from being drafted in his second go-around this year, but we’ve not heard the last of Andy Iles. He’ll continue to be a solid goaltender at Cornell, and if someone’s willing to give him a shot, they won’t be sorry.

Coming up after the jump… Several players I think may be called upon in 2012…

In 2012, Team USA will have a sour taste in their mouths after finishing third this year. They’re going to have a very formidable team, with the solid 1992 birth years and several key 1993s. I also take a quick look at three 1994 born players that may be in the mix. This list is in no way comprehensive. It’s based on players I’ve seen enough of to make a call on whether or not they should be in the mix. If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments! I always love to hear your input.

For the record, Chris Dilks over at Western College Hockey Blog did this same thing, and I have to say our lists are going to look really similar. So check out his thoughts, as well.

This list doesn’t include any of the players from the 2011 team that are still eligible for 2012. So here are the names you must know:

1992s

Forwards

Brandon Saad — Saginaw Spirit (OHL) — Saad just missed the cut this year, but it won’t happen again. He’s got a chance to be a top-5 draft pick this June. Saad is a premier power forward that has a gift for scoring. He’s played in international tournaments throughout his career and will be heavily relied upon next year. His speed and strength are going to be needed in Alberta.

Connor Brickley — University of Vermont (HEA) — Want toughness? Want grit? Brickley’s got both. Another guy that just missed the cut this year, won’t be left off again. His ability to change the momentum of a game with a booming check or a hard play will make him an asset against a gritty Canadian team. There’s no let down in this guy’s game. He’s also highly capable of putting the puck in the net. Plenty to be excited about in his game.

Matthew Nieto — Boston University (HEA) — Speed and skill. When you lose a player like Chris Kreider, you need a guy who can turn on the jets in the blink of an eye. Another camp cut, Nieto never really looked like he was in the mix this year. However, next year he may be relied on heavily in an offensive role. May be one of the fastest players available to Team USA next year.

Austin Watson — Peterborough Peters (OHL) — A big, lanky forward with incredible defensive awareness, I can’t see how he gets left off next year’s squad. He’s a very smart center that can be used on the penalty kill just as easily as the power play. He’s developed into a very solid two-way player. He also brings an element of grit. Right now, he’s been struggling a bit on a poor Peterborough team, but I don’t anticipate it will continue for long.

Defensemen

Adam Clendening — Boston University (HEA) — Another guy missing the final cut at the pre-tournament camp this year, it would be hard to keep someone with his offensive ability off of the roster. One of his greatest assets is poise and confidence with the puck, no matter the pace of the game. He should be a guy that can get the puck up to the forwards quickly. Additionally, Clendening has a great release on his shot. He’s been known to pick a corner or two. He might find himself out of the first round at the draft this year, but despite his size, he’s a difference maker.

Jarred Tinordi — London Knights (OHL) — Many were surprised that he wasn’t invited to camp, due to his USA Hockey history and first-round pedigree. He’s had a rough year in London, and had a very bad summer evaluation camp, getting cut quickly. Still his size and toughness would be a welcome addition to next year’s team. He continues to need work on his skating, but his reach and strength will serve him well next season.

1993s:

Forwards

Rocco Grimaldi — U.S. National Under-18 Team (North Dakota commit) — I thought for sure Grimaldi was on the team this year. However, he didn’t produce offensively in camp. When you’re 5-6, you have to produce. Grimaldi has done it at every other level he’s been at. With another year of seasoning and a half-season at the University of North Dakota, Grimaldi should be the offensive weapon Team USA will need throughout the tournament.

Tyler Biggs – U.S. National Under-18 Team (Miami University commit) — This aptly named big, tough forward brings the edge up front. He also possesses a great shot and can score from a variety of angles. He’s tough to play against and he’ll  bring that nasty streak to Team USA. Still needs work on his puckhandling and a bit on his skating, but he’s come a long way. He’s currently the Under-18 captain at the NTDP. Look for him to be a driving force on and off the ice.

Seth Ambroz — Omaha Lancers (USHL, University of Minnesota commit) — Ambroz started off this season a little slow, but is beginning to pick it up. The one thing he doesn’t have that could hold him back (similarly to Biggs) is great foot speed. However he has keen offensive ability and great size. When he’s at the top of his game, he’s a pure goal scorer with loads of skill. Look for him to gain some experience and pick up his production at Minnesota next year.

Defensemen

Robbie Russo — U.S. National Under-18 Team (University of Notre Dame commit) — Russo has long been thought the class of the 1993 defensive corps. He’s been a solid contributor offensively for the U.S. team and possesses a very nice shot. His skating ability and toughness rarely come into question. Still, he can be inconsistent and will need to try and show ability to play soundly at both ends.

1994s:

Here are a few 1994-born players that I think would have an outside chance at making this squad. Usually, if the U.S. is taking an under-ager, it’s as a 13th forward. It is not very common at all for the U.S. team to take an under-age defenseman on it’s team, but due to a weaker core in the 1993 birth year, these guys might be in the mix late. I also have a few thoughts on an intriguing option for Team USA.

Seth Jones — U.S. National Under-17 Team — This big defenseman does it all. His fluid skating and high hockey IQ put him in a league with Jon Merrill, as far as prospects are concerned. He’s getting battle tested by playing in the USHL against much older opponents and has been a standout in international competition. His maturity and poise make him a very attractive option if the U.S. finds itself thinner than expected on the blue line. It’s a long shot for a 1994-born player, especially a defenseman, to make next year’s team, but he should get a look, at least. He’s not even draft eligible until 2013, but its hard to argue with his ability right now as a young 16-year-old.

Jacob Trouba — U.S. National Under-17 Team — Trouba has loads of offensive ability. His skating is superb and he’s very strong in transition. He possesses a major-league shot and can be deadly from out deep. Additionally, he plays a strong physical game and doesn’t back down from anything. He might need a little bit of work in his own zone to be able to defend at the level of the World Juniors, but anything is possible between now and then. I’d imagined he and Jones will get a look at the pre-tournament camp, if only to get the experience, but this is a pair we’ll be hearing from for a long time.

Dilks also raised the question of the potential addition of Alex Galchenyuk from Sarnia in the OHL.

And there’s another potentially interesting wild card from the ’94 age group. Sarnia’s Alex Galchenyuk was the first overall pick in last year’s OHL Draft and is scoring about a point per game this season. It sounds like Galchenyuk would have the option of playing for either the US or Russia in international play. If he decided to play for the US, it couldn’t hurt the team to add a potential top 5 NHL draft pick into the mix.

I think he’d certainly be in the mix, but the question is, which team will young Alex pick? Players with foreign citizenship have not been shied away from in the past by USA Hockey. For example Philip Samuelsson played in one tournament for Sweden in November 2008, before playing for Team USA at the World Under-18 Championship in Fargo in April 2009, thus making him American for life when it comes to international hockey. Once a player competes for one country in an IIHF-sanctioned world championship, that’s the country he/she must remain with.

Galchenyuk’s nationality decision may already be made by this coming April. Russia is not as strong in the 1993 or 1994 birth years and a player like Galchenyuk would be attractive to the Russian Federation for the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Germany. If he’s offered a spot on that team, I’m guessing he takes it and he’s Russian for life in international competition. Don’t plan on the U.S. extending him the same offer, so it should be interesting to watch.

The 1994 players are purely speculation, and its incredibly early to make a call, but I think those three players are potentially the class of their age group in American hockey. USA Hockey loves getting their young guns experience, can they afford to in 2012? We’ll see.

I’ve got one last post coming out today, in which I tell you what’s next for United States of Hockey. Thanks for reading!

 

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
This entry was posted in 2011 WJC, American Prospects, Junior Hockey, NCAA, NHL, U.S. National Teams. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to WJC Aftermath: Evaluating the Goaltender(s), Plus a Look to 2012

  1. I think we’ll end up seeing one 1994 born defenseman step up and make next year’s WJC team but you left out the guy most likely to do it: Nick Ebert from Windsor. While both Jones and Trouba are elite prospects themselves and would be the next best choices, Ebert is probably the best ’94 defenseman in the world right now. Still lots of development until then though and as we know, 16 year olds can progress and/or regress quite quickly but I’d look to Ebert, Trouba, and Jones as the ones to watch for now.

    • Chris Peters says:

      I like Ebert, but I’d still take both those other guys right now first. I have to give them the edge for international experience. You can’t argue with what Ebert has done already in his young career, but I would not call him the best ’94 defenseman in the world. Plus, when they take underagers, they almost always come from the NTDP. Some call it bias, I call it familiarity.

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